How do you persuade Russians who like big, expensive cars - proof of their success - to try out the tiny Smart car? Answer: You give them a test drive when they need it most: when their illegally parked car has been towed or picked up from Moscow's jam-packed streets.
Devised by BBDO Moscow, Mercedes Smart Cars launched a campaign entitled 'The Unexpected Test Drive', offering stranded drivers the chance to try out the Smart car when they needed it most.
This was how Mercedes put it,"Although most of them are in dire need of a second car, our potential customers showed virtually no interest in our Smarts.
"Our objective was to bring the most reluctant consumers to test drive the Smart and change their state of mind from "Smart is not really a car" into being true believers and advocates of the Smart."
Our secret weapon: once you take the Smart for a ride, you'll fall in love with it. Core audience's weakest point: their big cars and all the problems they bring along.
Most illegally parked cars in Moscow are picked-up or towed during the weekend shopping. Once car-less, drivers suffer expensive , hours-long cab rides through Moscow's traffic, in order to get back their cars.
At the peak of the driver's desperation, the Smart Teams jump in, offering free rides, a unique opportunity to test drive the versatile Smart in some of the World's worst traffic jams.
"Being there for them exactly at the moment when they needed a car the most turned reluctant, condescending consumers into true believers -- a 100% realistic test drive of the very car that could have saved them from all the hassle."
40 Smarts saved 623 car-less drivers during three days, in parking lots around eight shopping malls . Over 400 drivers became true believers ("Smart is a real car") -- rate of conversion 70% - advocating Smart on their vkontakte and facebook profiles.
Blogs and news portals picked up the story, said Mercedes, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in earned media and incalculable amounts of positive emotions around the tiny cars that saved the day for Moscow car-less drivers .
Test drives increased 10 fold in the 2 weeks following the event.